KDE has anounced the availability of KDE 4.0 RC1 – get it while it’s hot!
Alternately, you can grab the Debian KDE4 Live CD which should be updated shortly with the latest release.
I was amazed when I saw this (forget where), had to go and hunt it down… turns out, Wim Wauters, aka SilentStorm on the Avant Window Navigator Forum is releasing this absolutely FANTASTIC goodie to the public very soon, hopefully in a few days.
I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for this… stacks for my iPhone makes it easy to keep things decluttered, I’m sure this will have the same effect for my Linux machine as well.
Kudos to Wim, as well as Timon – the original author of Stacks for AWN.
So, so sexy…. ahh.
Coincidence? I think not. 🙂
Every Thursday, for the last 10 weeks straight I’ve been providing a quick synposis on the top 10 or 15 stories on the most popular topics on Digg.com in the Linux/Unix section. Not anymore… not Digg anyways.
This isn’t gonna be a rant, just the facts. Of the last ten articles I’ve written, all of them have been buried.
Two of them were buried even after hitting the front page.
That’s approximately 2 computers per person! One of the best ways to re-purpose an old computer is to install a Linux or FreeBSD firewall distribution, and use it to run your personal, home office, or small office network is one way to keep “obsolete” technology from ever reaching a landfill.
Help the environment by reusing an old computer as a firewall. It will protect your computer from internet worms, save you time, money and most importantly – improve your internet experience as a whole.
Fact: A wireless router at an electronics store that can cost in excess of $100 is actually slower than any computer made in the last decade. Really! Most routers off the shelf at a store only have a 200MHz processor and 16MB of RAM.
By today’s standards, the 500MHz computer that’s been running quietly in my closet for the past 3 years is beyond obsolete. More than ten generations of processors have come and gone since this computer rolled off the assembly line.
Keep that wallet in your pocket, don’t be a sucker and spend lots of money on a slow, horrifically overpriced home networking product. There’s a good reason why companies like Linksys (a division of Cisco), Netgear and D-Link are worth multi-billions of dollars and continue to climb. Consumer spending on products with home network connections will reach over 17 billion dollars this year.
Here’s the criteria each platform is graded on:
Each item in the list is given a value of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), then averaged to obtain the final score.
The testing platform we are using today is an HP Vectra slimline PC. Considering the computer was FREE (as in beer) after a company upgraded their workstations, the specifications are nothing to scoff at.
We’re taking a look at no less than seven different firewall products today:
I’d like to draw your attention to the size column. Size is NOT everything (that’s what she said) when it comes to firewall distributions. Wireless routers that may run your home or office network right now pack a ton of functionality into a package as small as 2 megabytes. FreeBSD, Redhat, and Debian are the building blocks for these home networking appliance distributions.
Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
ClarkConnect is a BEAST – in a good way. It’s really hungry for a faster processor than I can throw at it. The list of features really blow everything out of the water. It’s not just a router or firewall platform, it’s like someone asked themselves a question: “What is EVERYTHING a small office could EVER need in a networking server?” ClarkConnect provides three different robust VPN connectivity solutions using IPSec, PPTP, OpenVPN, along with web proxy and web filtering. Additionally, it provides an SSH server, Quality of Service (QoS) filtering for common P2P applications, Intrusion Detection, and much, much more including email server, file, print, database and web serving. Not to mention a fairly comprehensive group ware suite, which has calendar, contact, tasks lists, and provides a paid option for using Microsoft Outlook Connector to allow everything to go right into Microsoft Office Outlook.
ClarkConnect is certainly a jack of all trades. Doing everything is great, but how well does ClarkConnect do it? On the testbed, installation was easy, and had an informative installation progress screen. The first time running through the installer, there was a problem with not having enough disk space. After rebooting and trying again, I chose to utilize Disk Druid, a partitioning program – instead of the auto-partition mode. Everything worked just fine after that. I believe the problem lies with the testbed – 1GB of space is not alot to work with, but fortunately they provide a manual partitioning method. It also prompts to create a GRUB (bootup) password, so that if the device is physically compromised, it would be more difficult for someone to maliciously (or accidentally) make changes to the system.
Configuration was an overall negative experience. It got confusing, not to mention frustrating. A small business owner who doesn’t know much about networking or computers, would be best to consider hiring a professional to do the initial installation, or paying for a yearly support contract from the vendor, or for a single incident. An interesting feature ClarkConnect leverages very well during configuration stages is a graphical interface to the system. Every other firewall reviewed here either has a very sparse text-mode or console configuration. ClarkConnect wants to make it easier. Just point and click to configure the system, which is nice – but it does not contain all of the features as the text-mode configuration tool which is also provided.
The Web Graphical Interface is easy to use. Items are categorized in a logical fashion and it doesn’t take much hunting to find something you want, if you don’t know where exactly it is in the menu. Style-wise, ClarkConnect is the only option in this roundup that provides a theme switcher – it is possible to use a very slick, visually appealing interface, or with a few clicks, just change to another theme which is less eye-candy, but probably more familiar to most people who have configured a wireless router in the past.
Many companies, like ClarkConnect, release a “community” version as well as a paid version which includes more features and support options, add-ons such as email and virus scanning is available on a subscription basis, and with so many features to start out with you might not need anything else to help to run a small business.
Consider IPCop to be the baseline for features, usability and extensibility. The installation CD is simple, but employs a non-linear configuration that some may have difficulty using the first time around. A nice touch is including MemTest86 on the CD and including that as an option on the initial bootup. The program will systematically test your RAM and determine if there is a fault, and as a computer gets older, the likelihood of that happening becomes more of a reality.
The auto-partitioner worked great, unfortunately the installation procedure does have one glaringly obvious flaw. When the setup routine attempts to detect network cards, it cycles through every single network card that is supported. After the first card is detected, it prompts you to set that as the “GREEN” interface, also known as the LAN. Once it’s found the first NIC and assigned it to LAN, you can’t change it to “RED” or as the WAN interface. Mildly annoying, but thankfully the workaround is pretty simple, just reboot and start it again.
The web-based configuration tool is absolutely simple. Setting up SSH is just a checkbox away. VPN support is focused on a solution to provide IPCop-to-IPCop connectivity, but an OpenVPN add-on exists. Speaking of addons, there is a HUGE modding community devoted to adding features into IPCop. The webGUI style is in a word, tacky. It’s a good thing that it can be easily modified. A few changes to colors and background images later, it looks much, much better. Functionality-wise, IPCop makes it easy to forward ports, but does keep a few ports to itself that you cannot utilize, such as port 222 for SSH. Printing is not an option. I haven’t been able to find any 3rd party modification that allows print serving. The graphs are simplistic, yet very informative.
monowall is by far, the smallest of the bunch. The entire thing is contained in a measly 8 MB CD image! monowall is first and foremost, a routing platform. Nothing more, nothing less. The distribution comes in two flavors, either for embedded systems or for regular PCs. Installation the first time around may be difficult for a beginner, since it refers to network cards by their FreeBSD driver name, instead of something a human can easily interpret. Which is easier to understand: “fxp0” or “Intel Pro 10/100+”? Why not provide both peices of information to the user?
VPN is well supported with both IPSec and PPTP options. SSH access can be enabled by a 3rd party add-on. Print serving is unsupported. The configuration page for monowall uses K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) to great effect. It’s brain-dead simple to set things up. However, two things stand out as being somewhat awkward, those being static DHCP and advanced settings. Otherwise, it’s fantastic. Ever had P2P traffic slow down your internet surfing? Check one single box in the GUI, and instantly you have over 20 different protocols that are instantly filtered using QoS to make your internet surfing experience as pleasant as possible.
Add-ons are not easy to incorporate, and require modification of the ISO image, but monowall is not designed to be anything more than a router and firewall. Extra features like a wireless AP feature that can be used with the captive portal function, Wake on LAN interface, and probably the smallest feature I could point out – the uptime is printed on the console when rebooting. Small things like that show an extremely polished software platform that delivers.
pfSense is a hybrid of sorts, that has multiple sources for it’s major components. It was originally derived from monowall, but uses OpenBSD’s ported Packet Filter, a package management system to provide an integrated extensibility to the platform and Alternate Queuing (ALTQ) from FreeBSD. This Frankenstein is no slouch when it comes to performance, features and usability.
Installation uses the same monowall device naming system which is clunky, and also does not provide the entire name of the device. Once installed, the console has several options, one of those which is a program called “pfTop”, if you’ve ever needed to be able to view where most of your network bandwidth is being used from a console, now you can very easily.
The web GUI is absolutely fantastic. It’s got initial setup & traffic shaping wizards, a captive portal, load balancer (nice!), OLSR (ad-hoc wireless AP mode), Wake on LAN wizard, different selectable themes for the GUI, OpenVPN, IPSec, and PPTP VPN are all included by default, failover, and packet capturing!
Wizards for traffic shaping and initial setup – not anything new, almost any router you can buy today has them, but when you see them for the first time included in a firewall distribution, it’s great to see changes that make a product easier to use. No other firewall we’ve looked at has three different VPN options.
SmoothWall’s installation is simplistic, and the GREEN/RED interface descriptions are an easy idea to grasp. One of the best features is a Java SSH client that runs right in the web interface – slick. Smoothwall’s VPN is designed to connect multiple Smoothwalls to each other, but IPSec is supported fully, and addons can be found for other VPN implementations.
The web interface is easy to navigate. This is the only product to provide a Java SSH client that runs right in the WebGUI – very nice. The real-time traffic graphs are a great addition. Add-ons for Smoothwall 3.0 are plentiful and usually easy to install, if you can think of it, it probably exists. my.smoothwall is integrated into the web configuration tool, and provides some basic integration into the smoothwall website. Free services like dynamic DNS are available, along with paid features as well.
The IM proxy is the best I’ve seen. Once it’s enabled, every incoming and outgoing IM conversation is logged. After opening up a few channels in IRC – in real-time – it’s possible to view any conversation going through the firewall. MSN, AIM, and other protocols are supported as well. It’s a big-brother feature, but if you want to monitor who you children are talking to, or for whatever reason, I can see it being an invaluable resource to monitor what is going on in a network you control. It would almost be easier to keep track of conversations using the logging tool in Smoothwall instead of multiple instant messenger clients.
Endian and Gibraltar are not included in the final results due to not finishing testing.
Endian “is very easy to install, use and manage, without losing its flexibility.” I had a completely different experience. Although Endian is only 106 MB and would easily fit within the 1GB limitation of our testbed, installation failed at 96% – reporting that there was not enough space on the drive.
The installer for Endian has hard-coded values for the suplementary filesystems /var and swap. There is no minimum system requirements listed on their website that I can find, and I checked online for solutions to this problem. The best solution provided was to install Endian to another hard drive, resize the partitions to fit on the smaller disk, then copy it back using an disk imaging software. That workaround does not constitute “easy to install” by any stretch of the imagination.
Gibraltar is a close match to every other distribution we’ve looked at so far, with a few nice touches. Their website says that they have the following feature at first look, seems pretty kickass: “Anonymisation Gateway: The Gibraltar Anonymisation Gateway makes your overall network traffic anonymous and it makes sure you can surf in the internet anonymously.”
To activate the firewall you must obtain a license key (for free) from their website. Unfortunately, that feature on Gibraltar’s site does not appear to be working properly. I’ve tried multiple times to request a key, and it said one was on it’s way – but never arrived. About a day later I requested a key once again, and was informed that a key already exists for my email address. Not good. Right before publishing this article I finally received a key via email, and it appears that the license key process is not automated, unfortunately. We’ll take a look at it next time around.
The scoring system gives equal favor to the following categories: Setup, WebGui, Extensibility, and Speed Testing. Each of the distributions passed the speed test with flying colors, with less than 5% margin between highest and lowest scores. It’s difficult to assign arbitrary numbers to reach a score, and I’ve attempted to provide a good metric for which someone can go by to determine which is best for them.
In the end, pfSense is ultimately the best choice overall and provides the best value of all we have looked at today.
Fedora, in their infinite wisdom, decided it would be a great idea to make it difficult to install proprietary codecs, drivers, and much more due to vague licensing issues that may exist. Let’s talk about what doesn’t work by default in the latest version of Fedora.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AND OFFENSIVE SEXIST ALLITERATION AHEAD
Fedora helpfully provides a list of “Forbidden Items” that are not included with the distribution, nor are they easily obtained for a Linux neophyte. I’ll list them here:
If that wasn’t enough, on that same website, the fine chaps at Fedora attempt to insult our intelligence by offering ridiculous alternatives, here’s the best example:
Are they serious? Who in their right mind would suggest using the Ogg Theora codec to watch a DVD?
I think the suggestion is taken out of context. This is what it should actually say:
Fedora Suggests: Use a broomstick dipped in Icy Hot to sodomize yourself.
The new “Codec Buddy” in Fedora 8 (aka Codeina) appears to be a get rich quick scheme hatched by Fluendo, the 3rd party vendor behind the program. Hmm… the name of the company sounds like the word “innuendo” – that’s catch! Their motto should be something like this:
“We snatch your cash when you wanna watch some snatch.”
The total price of all the codecs provided: WMA, WMV, ASF, MPEG2, MPEG4, MP3, AC3… all for low, low price of somewhere around or near $50 US Dollars after exchange fees. Buy the Complete Set of Playback Plugins for the i386 architecture now, and you only pay two easy payments of fuck right the hell off, and feel free to eat some shit pie if you decide to switch to 64-bit, because you’ll need to buy them all over again.
What is the solution? Glad you asked. Thankfully someone who doesn’t have their head firmly lodged up their ass over at Livna.org decided to build a most excellent package repository. This collection of useful software provides things like fglrx, gstreamer-ffmpeg, gstreamer-plugins-bad, gstreamer-plugins-ugly, lame, libdvdcss, madwifi, ndiswrapper, ntfs, and nvidia just to name a few.
Unless you’re intimately familiar with these names of things that “just work” in other Linux distributions, it’s everything that Fedora wants to charge you $50 for, plus dozens more codecs and drivers that makes your system be able to do things with your computer. You can’t do small things like oh…. connect to the internet, browse the web, play DVDs or music, or even play some video games.
Fedora isn’t all bad, by the way.
I believe a quick review is in order to restore my karma. Time to get the testbeds ready!
For a Linux enthusiast like myself, I’m not gonna lie, Fedora is an excellent distribution. Installing is a simple affair, configuring all the junk that they leave out is relatively simple (once you find it), and it’s got some really sweet features that are just icing on the cake. The small things are what matters most. If you’re familiar with any Gnome-based distribution, you’ll be right at home on Fedora.
The bonus feature that many reviewers may gloss over is the fact that Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL for short) is based on Fedora Core 6. Familiarity with RHEL can be a determining factor in hiring for a job. In fact, I think I’m going to run Fedora 8 until CentOS 5.1 is released and give that a try. CentOS is the free version of RHEL.
Without more from me, let’s see tons of screenshots of the installation:
Two things stand out to begin with. First, dictionary word password warning – not a bad idea. Then, the desktop changes colors based on what time it is.
Neat! Notice the system time in each of those screenshots… morning, noon, evening, night. The colors change in incremental values, but that gives you a pretty good idea of how it works. I love it. Whoever thought of this is worthy of a pat on the back… and certainly worthwhile for people who don’t get out much.
The package manager is useful, but generally I prefer a command line.
Firefox dies a slow death and requires manual installation of Adobe Flash Player:
A built-in firewall and SELinux policies are pretty smart to keep around if you’re operating in a DMZ or with hacker-magnet ports open to the world.
Other than previously discussed above, Fedora is a very solid distribution. Once it’s up and running, it’s great. It’s stable, feels faster and snappier than Ubuntu (especially in Firefox), and has nifty little things like PulseAudio installed by default which is pretty snazzy. Another thing – if you’re looking for pre-built proprietary software packages, RPM is pretty much the standard for companies to provide.
PulseAudio is a very welcome inclusion, but I’m not quite sure how Fedora expects people to be listening to multiple audio streams at the same time without any audio codecs – nevertheless, a very nice addition.
Updated Gnome 2.2 features like leaving a message for someone when a PC is locked are pretty groovy as well…
In the end, Fedora is great for a geek like me, but quite possibly the least favorable choice for someone who isn’t very familiar with Linux.
If you’re ever up Fedora creek without a codec, make sure you bookmark this page.
I feel so much better now.
I wrote a letter to Gabe Newell about a month back, a few days after I published an article about running the Orange Box using WINE. He personally requested feedback during the Developer Commentary within the game, and as I expected – received no response.
It’s not something I take personally, as I figure he’s pretty busy. However, when I wrote a similar letter after the release of Half Life 2, I received an immediate reply in less than a few minutes – pretty astonishing. Here’s the unanswered letter that mentions the “L” word – Linux.
Since I wrote this letter, that article has received over 27,000 views – at a rate of more than 500 hits per day after the initial spike of hitting the front page of Digg.
Here is a picture of the stats:
Subject: This Is Not Your Average Email
Date: Wed, October 17, 2007 2:45 pm
With the amount of email you likely receive, I really hope you have a good handle on GTD. 🙂
I love your games, and please allow me to extend a huge pat on the back to everyone who works for Valve on finally shipping Team Fortress 2. I’ve been waiting as many years as you have. I really enjoyed the Developer Commentary, and hope that future games that you publish include that feature.
You probably don’t enjoy hearing the “L word” mentioned over and over via email, forums, news, etc, however, I’d like to let you know that I have written a how to on playing all of the games in the Orange Box on Linux. Since it was published just 3 days ago, it has received well over 13,000 unique visitors. I’ve written dozens of articles, and most simply do not see this level of attention.
It is easily understood that providing a Linux client simply makes your rendering engine and tool chain a little bit more attractive to those who wish to license your engine. In the same vein, trying to keep a licensed, secured, up to date Windows installation around just for your games is also an inefficient usage of my resources.
Add my voice to the growing number of people who have switched from Windows and crossed over to using Linux “on the desktop.”
I’d like to propose a toast: Here’s to dreaming of the day when we can run your _fantastic_ video games in Linux.
Still nothing to say Gabe?
For the 9th week in a row… Seven more days pass, 15 more stories from the Digg Linux/Unix section. I like doing this piece every week… I actually missed a few of these. Maybe I don’t pay enough attention to what’s popular… I tend to spend more time in the upcoming section on Digg since that’s mildly more interesting in general.
1. How to tell if a web site sucks, a flowchart
I love this flowchart.. I’m sure this website is NOT Brain rot, Web 2.0 fluff, a fanboy site, but unfortunately I might be a “Newb ego blogger,” since my picture is in the sidebar – does it make you wanna hurl? If not, fsckin.com is the real deal. What I’m not sure of is why this is in the Linux section at the number 1 story with over 3500 diggs. Hmm. Strange.
3. Introducing the real 3D Compiz!
This is sweet! Using red/blue glasses you can view your desktop in true 3D.
4. Firefox 3.0b1 has NOT been released.
It’s actually “Firefox 3.0 Beta 1 Release Candidate 1.” Who knew?
5. Turn Your Old PC into a Webapp Monster with gOS
Lifehacker quotes me in this, so it’s worth reading. I really like gOS, I ran it for about a week and had no big problems with it, other than the fact that it’s designed for a Linux neophyte. http://www.fsckin.com/2007/11/03/interview-with-gos-founder-linux-for-human-beings-who-shop-at-walmart/
6. Linux.com :: When open source projects close the process, something’s wrong
Somewhat boring nerd drama… KDE had icons STOLEN!!!!!1111 from their public SVN repo, that were licensed under both LGPL and CC, and they cry about it. Secondly, the GIMP UI brainstorm is like throwing a penny in a wishing well. The developer mailing list shows how absolutely patheticly prepared they are for new developers to join the team. http://lists.xcf.berkeley.edu/lists/gimp-developer/2007-August/018376.html It’s just rotten how badly this would-be volunteer gets completely shot down… and he doesn’t come back for more.
7. Ubuntu: Just how popular is it?
Nobody knows in the end… but it’s more popular than anything else. Go figure.
8. Why Linux Will Succeed On The Desktop
From the article: “I believe Linux will become the de-facto standard desktop operating system. Though it’ll take a while for many users to break free from ties to Windows, there is good reason to believe that this day will come.” – Nicholas Petreley
9. We’re only Human after all: a review of Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon
YARoU (Yet Another Review of Ubuntu) – Two weeks late.
10. Anatomy of the Linux File System
Boring… I buried this.
11. Lego-like computer building blocks run Linux
This is really cool… worth reading.
12. Ubuntu – Outside the Sandbox
Daddy runs Ubuntu and gets quizzed by geek son.
What did you like most about using Ubuntu Linux? I didn’t really find it to be any different than using Windows.
13. Up close with the Eee PC user interface
A neat video of the Eee PC UI… Blimblam!
14. Ubuntu to get visual refresh with Hardy Heron
Ok, ok… I give up, more crap about the new theme for Ubuntu 8.10. I wonder how many times this is going to be dugg before it actually is released? I bet something like once a week.
15. Linux Game Company Opens Doors
Hmmm… I think this should have been buried.. this looks totally bunk… some bullshit get rich quick scheme… they’re trying to raise $40 grand for a 2D space shooter? Lame!
Users of any Gnome-based distribution are probably familiar with gedit, the basic text editor with a few sweet additions, such as multiple file editing with tabs.
Even regular users of gedit may not even know that it has a plugin system, or of the availability of the
gedit-plugins package which is maintained by the gedit developers.
The plugins are not included by default in most pre-packaged distributions. It’s probably not something that most users would take advantage of. It weighs in at a paltry 2MB, but for most Single-CD-ROM distributions, that’s the difference between fitting on a CD or moving up to a DVD.
Here’s a screenshot of the way gedit comes looking out of the box:
Here is the gedit your mother warned you about (with an appropriate metacity theme applied):
WOW! Talk about a whole new look! Is that really gedit?
Let’s focus on the important changes I’ve made that you can see right off the bat:
gedit-plugins can use your help! Stop by the #gedit IRC channel on irc.gnome.org and make some suggestions.
If you found this article helpful, feel free to speak up and leave a comment. Remember, always wear protection.
A common attitude among people who believe in free software is to stick it to “the man.” For some people, that translates into spending a ton of free time porting Linux to devices that were never designed for it.
This is one of the things that always amazes me when I read about the latest high-tech devices that been modified to run Linux. Some of these implementations may be incomplete, and I’m not sure why someone would take a brand new device and risk bricking it…
Ok, I lied – I nearly bricked my iPhone last night in the process of updating to the latest firmware version… about a month after a working hack was available. Something about being the first person to try out the latest hack on a $400 dollar device just doesn’t seem appealing to me.
Here’s a short list of devices that make unlikely with Linux. Enjoy!
Last but not least, a toaster: http://pics.defcon.org/showphoto.php?photo=53&cat=512
I showed you mine, now you get to show me yours! What would you like to see running Linux?
Edit… PS3, VirtualPC and USB drives were removed.
Here’s another for you all… Your Mom Can Run Linux: http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2007-08-03-032-26-OP-DT